Friday, September 13, 2013


Glasgow University Library
Plate 6, Copy B
War was not a theoretical issue for Blake; it was the condition with which Europe, Britain, London and each individual was preoccupied from the years 1775 when America's War for Independence began until 1815 when Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. Blake's attitude to conflict is a major topic of David Erdman's book Blake: Prophet Against Empire. Erdman traces in Blake's poetry events on the world stage which were affecting the daily lives of the British people. In Jerusalem Erdman considers that Blake was asking what were the roots of the war which stretched on for years. Willingness to sacrifice individuals to the demands of Empire is revisited many times as a possible answer underlying Albion's failure to become the embodiment of the brotherhood of man.       

Erdman writes on page 469:
"The Blakean reversal here is typical: oppressors talking of casting pearls before the swinish multitude; Blake 'saw' that the people were the pearls and that they had been 'hardened' by the contempt of those who treated them like swine and who cast forth 'all the tenderness of the soul...  as filth & mire.' Here was the core of his answer.
He could not help 'looking on Albions City with many tears,' for the continental war was reaching a climax and the danger was imminent that Albion [Britain] would impose a conqueror's peace on Luvah [France] and perpetuate the cycle of 'deadly war (the fever of the human soul).'"

Jerusalem, Plate 45 [31], (E 194)
"But Los
Searchd in vain: closd from the minutia he walkd, difficult.
He came down from Highgate thro Hackney & Holloway towards London
Till he came to old Stratford & thence to Stepney & the Isle     
Of Leuthas Dogs, thence thro the narrows of the Rivers side
And saw every minute particular, the jewels of Albion, running down
The kennels of the streets & lanes as if they were abhorrd.
Every Universal Form, was become barren mountains of Moral
Virtue: and every Minute Particular hardend into grains of sand:
And all the tendernesses of the soul cast forth as filth & mire,
Among the winding places of deep contemplation intricate
To where the Tower of London frownd dreadful over Jerusalem:
A building of Luvah builded in Jerusalems eastern gate to be
His secluded Court: thence to Bethlehem where was builded   
Dens of despair in the house of bread: enquiring in vain
Of stones and rocks he took his way, for human form was none:
And thus he spoke, looking on Albions City with many tears"

Jerusalem, Plate 33 [37], (E 179)
"So Los spoke: But when he saw blue death in Albions feet, 
Again he join'd the Divine Body, following merciful;
While Albion fled more indignant! revengeful covering
Plate 34 [38]
His face and bosom with petrific hardness, and his hands
And feet, lest any should enter his bosom & embrace
His hidden heart; his Emanation wept & trembled within him:
Uttering not his jealousy, but hiding it as with
Iron and steel, dark and opake, with clouds & tempests brooding: 
His strong limbs shudderd upon his mountains high and dark.

Turning from Universal Love petrific as he went,
His cold against the warmth of Eden rag'd with loud
Thunders of deadly war (the fever of the human soul)"

Jerusalem, Plate 45 [31], (E 194)
"And he who takes vengeance alone is the criminal of Providence;
If I should dare to lay my finger on a grain of sand
In way of vengeance; I punish the already punishd: O whom
Should I pity if I pity not the sinner who is gone astray!       
O Albion, if thou takest vengeance; if thou revengest thy wrongs
Thou art for ever lost! What can I do to hinder the Sons
Of Albion from taking vengeance? or how shall I them perswade.

So spoke Los, travelling thro darkness & horrid solitude:"

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